The final shot of “Bail” finds Christine, determined and unfazed by her surroundings, doing her water aerobics off the shore of Camarillo, California, late at night. With nobody around her – not her classmates of elderly women in one-piece bathing suits, not little kids jumping and splashing, not teens drinking and cavorting – she does what she has to do to get her exercise in.
Once again, BASKETS finds a beautiful moment out of everyday struggle. This time it’s Christine deciding to lose weight (she’s already lost 32 ounces, you know) and address her parenting and lifestyle choices. Will it work? Who the heck knows. But it’s a joy to watch.
“Bail” is about characters coming to terms, then attempting to seize control of their lives. But it’s a mixed bag. Christine’s struggle is the most explicit – she wrestles with getting in that pool, she’s being coached, she rejects dessert (despite Chip really laying it on), and she even puts up with eating croutons (she hates a soggy crouton). All those beats may not be necessary, but they serve to ground her story while the rest of the Baskets family lives in some fantasy land. Christine is the glue. She needs to get better or this family won’t ever recover.
And we see first-hand how Christine is the glue. Last week in the outstanding “Reverie,” Chip calls Martha to bail him out of jail. Only Martha doesn’t have the requisite $10,000, and doesn’t know what to do. So, despite Chip demanding she tell nobody (especially Christine), Martha tells Dale. Of course, Dale tells Christine. He wants no part of Chip’s problems.
That sends Christine to Camarillo to bail out Chip, to a correctional facility where she has to deal with other prisoner’s parents and bureaucratic nonsense. The fellow parent offers her peace of mind (“you haven’t given up”) and maybe a shot of truth serum. Christine jokes that she should just use the $10,000 to fly to Hawaii, which meets a possibly annoyed silence from the parent (who has been in and out of this situation with his daughter for years). He doesn’t want to hear that crap, and Christine may have realized it in that moment. Chip isn’t that bad. Life isn’t that bad. And in the end, the only thing you have the power to fix is yourself.
But Chip has a ways to go, despite the charges of mischief (“MISCHIEF?!” is a great line reading by Louie Anderson). While taking a backseat this week as we focus on Christine and Dale, Chip pretty much blends into the scenery. He still doesn’t know what he’s talking about (“I”m a millennial …” is solid non-sequitur), but sometimes comes through with a moment of clarity (telling Christine she shouldn’t have to worry about him). We’ll deal with Chip later, of course.
More pressing is Dale’s descent into someone a bit more problematic. He’s real nasty this week, abusing Martha on their date, pawning off his brother’s problems on his worrisome mother, desperately trying to hit on three women at a bar (after 16 mimosas), and invading his former home, scaring Nicole and Sarah while throwing pizza in the microwave and chips into everyone’s faces. Sure, par for the course for Dale, who in his own little fantasy land can’t help but think only about himself, but it’s a little too off the rails. When Nicole finally kicks him out of the house, Dale comes around quickly with an “I need you” plea. It feels more than a little unearned.
The bottom line is Dale is a little too thin. There’s nothing redeemable about anyone who steamrolls situations and frightens women in an otherwise quiet house.
That said, there’s minor humor in Dale prancing the aisles of Costco while grabbing jugs of factory-made chocolate and condoms. That helps a little – despite his otherwise clean appearance and professional success, this is clearly a weird dude. But there’s a ways to go if they’re going to make Dale a tragic figure I can get behind.
Right now the more interesting dynamics were laid out in the first two-and-a-half episodes of the season. Chip doesn’t know who he is and what he wants, but all we know is Martha wants to be there for him. Meanwhile, Christine is on a hellbent quest to better herself. Again, it’ll be a treat to watch Anderson grit and grovel through this thread.
And if it gives us more shots like the final scene of “Bail,” I’m there regardless of what happens.
Season 2, Episode 3 (S02E03)
Baskets airs Thursdays at 10 PM on FX
Timothy, who grew up on The Golden Girls and Seinfeld, writes regularly about entertainment, arts and lifestyles for a number of publications.
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Timothy Malcolm | Contributor